Birth certificate

Original Birth Certificates

I feel a sense of power as I sit in my office with an adopted child's original birth certificate on my desk. The certified birth certificate will go into the child's file, and locked away in a vault never to be seen again as mandated by Washington State law. The birth certificates list the full names of the child's birth parents as well as the name that the birth parent chose for them. The adoptive  family does not know the birth parents last names. Nor do they know the name the birth parent originally chose for the child. As I look at the vital document, I feel that I'm committing an infraction of sorts, in knowing that the child to whom this information belongs will never be allowed to view it.  The irony and weight of the moment is not lost, as I am keenly aware of the hours of time, money and longing that I've personally spent wishing for my own original birth certificate.  It's eerie to think that a social worker in the State of Tennessee, someone not too unlike myself, filed my birth certificate away, and locked it up and sealed it  for my eyes never to see.

Why is it that I, an arbitrary social worker, gets to hold, handle, file and seal a document away? A document to those whom are not adopted, consider a vital document- one to be stored next to their marriage license and social security cards in a locked, fireproof box.  But, for the adoptee they lost that right to have access to this document, simply for being born?

I know this debate is hot and raging in many states, but I can't help but feel a sense of debasement as I do to this child what I fought so hard for and wished wasn't done to me.  If all individuals should have the right to know basic information about themselves, what gives a state the right to act sovereign  and supreme over an adopted child?




I am thankful for my husband in many ways. But, I am specifically thankful for how respectful he has been of my obsessive quest to find my roots.

I am so thankful that my husband can understand my profoundly concentrated desire to find my family as a rite of passage.

My search for my birth family has been at the forefront of our marriage since we began dating. There was never a time that finding my birth family didn't matter to me. There has never been a time where I've put my desire to find my genes on the back burner. Not a week has gone by where at least one of our deep conversations hasn't somehow revolved around my birth family. Some may see this as an obsession...Bryan didn't.

I think back to the days in college, when Bryan came over to my dorm, where we scattered tons of paper throughout the floor, and proceeded to call random people in Tennessee, mostly getting hung up on, or wrong numbers  (It's amazing to think of how far we've come since then!). I remember when I paid money to the State of Tennessee, in order to receive my original birth certificate. Bryan was right beside me with anticipation, checking my mailbox every day, with the hopes that this document would be the key to my identity. I couldn't wait to find out what my birth mother and birth father's last names were, that way I'd be able to search for them! When the letter finally came with the State of Tennessee logo embossed in the corner, Bryan was there. I ripped open the letter, only to find that my official birth certificate lists, my [adoptive] parent's names as my birth mother and birth father. This was a let down, and tears flowed freely, and Bryan's shoulder was there for me to cry on.

I imagine that it's hard for some people to imagine why I would spend so much time on this "project." No one seemed to understand what I felt when people would exclaim, "you look just like your mom!" or "You totally have your dad's eyes, but your moms nose..." etc., etc. I couldn't have felt more isolated and alone during those conversations with my peers. I have always wondered what it felt like to have your family history always at your disposal, or to know your genes and be able to trace back your ancestry.  School assignments often added to the pressure, I was repeatedly required to complete a family tree in class, I would routinely use my [adoptive] family, but problems arose when I was asked to trace physical characteristics. Even though Bryan was not adopted he has an unbelievable ability to not only understand what I must be feeling, but he doesn't stop there...he cherishes my desire to find my roots, and has always valued my curiosity.  Bryan has never viewed my intense longing and desire to find my roots as an obsession, but rather a very important step towards confidence in adulthood.


I am also extremely thankful for my family. My mom has been right by my side the entire time I've been searching as well. I am so thankful that she does not feel any hints of jealousy towards my journey towards meeting my birth family. She knows that she is and will always be my mom. Even though my mom and I do not look like each other, I definitely "take after" my mom in many ways. It feels wonderful to be able to confidently acknowledge that genes aren't the only factor in determining identity.

My mom and I